How to Improve Your Website Using Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
You’ve launched your new website, it’s looking fantastic and you’re already getting lots of new visitors. But are they doing what you want them to do when they get there?
That’s the thing about websites. You can send as much traffic as you want to them but, if that traffic isn’t doing anything, you won’t see much in the way of benefits. This is where Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) comes in, and it’s an incredibly important consideration if you want your website to perform to its best possible capacity.
What is CRO?
CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimisation, is the process of optimising a website, app or digital product to increase the number of conversions made on your website. It’s an often-overlooked exercise when it comes to site optimisation, overshadowed by its more powerful search-based cousins, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC). These services are all about driving more people to your website, which is certainly important, but as we’ve already touched upon, all those people are worthless to you if they aren’t ‘converting’ when they get there.
What’s a conversion?
A conversion is just a fancy word for a sale or any other goal or event that happens on your website. For ecommerce websites, a conversion is – quite simply – any instance where a customer buys one of your products. Alternatively, you might have a website that exists purely to attract new business leads, whereupon you want any visitors to fill out an enquiry form. Whenever a person fills out a form and hits that submit button, that’s also a conversion. It’s all about what you want to measure, and it can range from something as small as subscribing to a newsletter to something as huge as purchasing a car.
Conversions are usually measured in terms of a percentage known as ‘conversion rate’, which is simply the percentage of all your site’s visitors who make a transaction or complete a goal you are measuring for. The average landing page conversion rate across industries is around 2.35%, so anything lower than this is going to need some attention. A good ballpark conversion rate would be 8-11% – which is something to set your long-term sights on.
What causes a low conversion rate?
A low conversion rate is usually indicative of one or both of these common problems:
- Your website design and landing page layout is confusing and/or making it too difficult to complete tasks
- Your site content or offering is not what your audience expected or what they want
The second issue can be solved by re-evaluating both your site offering and the way in which you attracted your visitors in the first place – whether that’s through advertising, SEO, PPC or social media. Make sure your SEO and PPC keywords actually match what your site is offering, and make sure all external messaging is clear, consistent, and not misleading. This will all help ensure you are driving the right traffic to your website, which is half the battle when it comes to achieving a high conversion rate.
The first issue sometimes requires a little more effort to correct, so this is what we’ll focus on for the remainder of this guide. Your website and landing page design could be putting barriers between your website’s users and their (also, your) end goal. Perhaps your Call to Action (CTA) buttons are too small or not visible enough, perhaps there’s a broken link somewhere, or maybe a form is too difficult or confusing to fill out.
There are a number of things that could affect your conversion rate, but there are ways to identify and fix them using CRO.
How to implement CRO to improve your conversion rate
A note before we start. You will need to use Google Analytics to set up and track your conversion rate. If you had your site built by a developer or agency, they will be able to help you ensure Google Analytics is set up properly on your website. If you’re the brave and resourceful soul doing it all yourself, Google Analytics is free and you can learn how to use it here.
Once you’re all set up with analytics and tracking, you’ll be able to see the conversion rate for your website. Another note: If your website is freshly-launched, you may need to wait a few days or weeks to gather enough data to analyse with any significance.
If your conversion rate is looking a little on the low side (less than the industry average of 2.35%), then you’ll know your website landing pages need a fair bit of attention. And, even if you’re above the average but still lower than you’d like to be, a spot of CRO could help improve your figures even further and get you closer to your goals.
User Testing & Data Gathering
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. User testing is, therefore, the very best place to start with CRO, as it acts as a diagnostics exercise to help you gather important data and plan your improvement strategies. Gathering this data can be done in a number of ways to suit a range of budgets – you can even do it for free.
If you’ve just launched your site and have little to no spare budget for testing, you can simply print out copies of your landing page designs (or share digital versions) and conduct a highlighter testing session. All you’ll need is a group of people (friends, family, colleagues, strangers in a coffee shop – the more the merrier), some red and green highlighter pens and about 15 minutes. Ask your guinea pigs to highlight any copy or on-page elements that they find easy to understand and useful in green, and anything they find confusing in red.
You could even give your test subjects a ‘scenario’ or ‘task’ to complete with these printouts, whereby they would tell you which buttons they would click and where they expect each button to take them along the way. From this you will quickly acquire a vast amount of feedback and easily see which elements on your website might be inhibiting your conversion rates.
Paid User Testing
There are lots of paid user testing platforms out there that allow you to enlist the time of real users of your chosen demographics who will test your website in real time. Most of these platforms allow you to set specific tasks for the users complete, and then provide you with video and voice recordings of each session so you can see and hear where the users struggle or succeed with those tasks on your site. You’d be amazed at what these sessions can dig up about your site’s functionality, so it’s well worth investing in if you can.
Some great user testing platforms include:
Some platforms, like Hotjar, also give you a wide selection of other analysis tools to add to your CRO arsenal. Heatmaps and scroll heatmaps, for example, will visually highlight exactly where your users are looking on your website, which areas are catching their attention and how far down each page they are scrolling. This information will tell you if your layouts are directing your users properly through the conversion process, or if they are missing important information or getting distracted or lost along the way.
If you knew that a huge chunk of your users were dropping out of the conversion process (leaving your website) on your basket page, you would know there is something there that urgently needs fixing. Tools like Hotjar allow you to see on which pages and during which steps users are leaving your site, allowing you to make targeted fixes. You can also use Google Analytics to set up goal funnel visualisation reports, which gives you very similar information as a free alternative to the paid options.
Surveys are a super-simple data gathering technique that can provide invaluable quantitative and qualitative data on your site’s functionality. You can use free services like Google Surveys to ask users for feedback on their experience on your site. You can even weave these into your website itself by using Google Tag Manager to get your surveys to fire on chosen pages – e.g. a product page or upon the completion of a purchase. You can ask users if they were successful in completing their reason for visiting your site, or you can ask them for descriptive feedback on design and layout.
You’ve got your data, what’s next?
You should now have a list of issues and areas for improvement, which you can organise in order of priority and begin to address. Let’s say you’ve discovered that users are finding it really difficult to fill out a form on your website, and are abandoning the page as a result. This is killing your conversion rate, so it’s time to get it fixed.
If your user feedback is detailed enough, you will know which specific element(s) of your form are causing the issues. Perhaps the design is too cramped, or maybe there are too many fields to fill out which is putting people off, or maybe users simply aren’t clear on what information they need to put into the form itself. All of these issues can be fixed by revising the design and creating a new iteration (or variant) that addresses the issue.
Once you have a new design variant to work with, it’s time to see if it works any better than the original. You could, in theory, simply launch the new design and cross your fingers. You may well see an improvement, in which case – happy days. But the most ideal approach is to A/B test your new variant against your original control version, especially if your research data isn’t as clear-cut as you would like.
Testing your variants
This is the really interesting part!
A/B testing allows you to directly compare two different variants of a website, page or specific feature without having to commit to any permanent changes first. This means you can get really creative with your solutions, tweaks and ideas and see which (if any) perform the best in terms of conversions, and you can always just revert back to the original version if a new idea doesn’t have the effect you hoped for.
Let’s return to our example of users finding it difficult to fill out a form on your website.
You have decided to design and build a whole new form that uses fewer information fields, some tooltips or text prompts to instruct users on how to fill out certain fields, and a less cramped and crowded layout. Your next step is to A/B test these variants, which means 50% of your users will see the old version, and 50% will see the new version.
You can then use free tools like Google Analytics or Google Optimise to harvest and analyse data on how well each version performs in terms of key metrics and KPIs such as:
- Conversion rate
- The amount of time a user spent on the page
- Bounce rate (users who land on a page and leave immediately without interacting).
If your form is for sign-ups and enquiries, you can set up your analytics so that every time someone fills out the form and clicks ‘submit’, this counts as a goal conversion.
Or, if your form is part of the checkout process for a purchase, you can set up ecommerce tracking to analyse KPIs like revenue and ecommerce conversion rate.
Both Google Analytics and Google Optimise will give you easy-to-digest dashboards of information so you can quickly see what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to make informed decisions about what to do next. In an ideal world, you would see an increase in conversion rate for the new version of your form, and then you would make this change permanent and begin sending 100% of your users to the new version.
Remember, not all your changes and iterations will necessarily have the positive impact you’re looking for. Some may even make your conversion rate drop slightly – but that’s the beauty of A/B testing and nothing to be afraid of. Any new iterations can be removed or changed as and when you need them to be, so don’t shy away from testing out new ideas.
Making a user-friendly website with CRO techniques is all about trial, error and experimentation. A website is, after all, never truly ‘finished’ – it’s always growing, improving and evolving along with technology and, of course, the way in which people use it.
If you’re looking for help with a new website design complete with Google Analytics set up and lots of post-launch support, just give our team of expert designers and developers a shout on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash